Each year, the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, NY holds an Orchid Show in it's conservatory. This year's theme was Key West Contemporary and is described on the nybg.org website as a show "where the dramatic beauty of a flourishing tropical garden is amplified by vibrant architecture that recalls this particular island's charm and ambience."
I've been to the show before during the daylight hours, but this year my husband and I attended one of the "Orchid Evening" events whereby guests are treated to a complimentary cocktail while a DJ's music sets the tone for a fun event.
Doing a search online, I came across Merkles Orchids and a very knowledgeable duo about orchids. I learned from their site that a few things set orchids apart from other flowers. Each orchid has the same "parts" - three sepals, three petals, a column and a lip. The lip (or labellum) is actually the third petal, but since it looks so different from the other two, it gets a different name. All orchids have a lip and it's function is to aid in the pollination process. Think of it as a fancy landing pad for an insect to land and do it's pollination business. The second characteristic is the column, which contains the reproductive organs ("male" anther with pollen and "female" stigma).
Merkles's site has some great close up images of the orchids so you can really see these parts. You can read about them in more detail here. For a plant that has an estimated 30,000 different species, it's really fascinating to think that they are all connected in these same ways.
The show is on display at New York Botanical Gardens until April 21.